How Ulta Beauty Is Building a Diversity-Forward Brand

October 30, 2019

By Claudine Waite


At the 2019 Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference, presented by Pandora and happening next week in San Diego, Karla Evans-Davis, senior director of integrated marketing and media at Ulta Beauty, will share the company’s journey toward becoming a purpose-driven brand, with diversity at the core of its evolution.

I had the chance to catch up with Karla to get sneak preview of her session as well as her thoughts on multicultural marketing in general.


Q. How was the shift in Ulta’s brand positioning, placing diversity at the core, received internally and externally?

I feel truly blessed that the evolution of our brand has been well received across the board. Internally, I think we’ve always valued diversity, and our branding efforts have just brought it to the forefront and provided a more pointed articulation of its importance. Similarly, when we unveiled our new positioning to the world, we were delighted to hear overwhelmingly positive feedback from consumers of all walks of life — especially noting that it truly reflected what they’ve always felt about Ulta Beauty and their experience with our brand.


Q. With your diverse constituency of consumers, what is the most significant challenge in engaging each segment?

For diverse consumers, I think the largest challenge is ensuring our strategies and (almost more importantly) our executions feel truly authentic and relevant to that audience. So often, the devil is in the details; and in most cases, multicultural consumers have an increased sensitivity to marketing that is created for them but doesn’t actually get them. When that happens, you’ve wasted a lot of time, money and ultimately, effectiveness in the marketplace.


Q. Multicultural consumers comprise almost 40 percent of the total U.S. population, yet multicultural media investments make up only 5.2 percent of total advertising and marketing spending, according to a new study. Any thoughts on this disparity?

I think there’s still a lack of understanding and/or acknowledgement of the difference between impressions and engagement. Too many times, we are conflating the presence of multicultural consumer viewership on certain channels or programs to mean multicultural consumer resonance, and it’s just not always the case. Unless you can appreciate that nuance and understand how to determine the difference, you won’t place enough value on the impact that endemic media partners can have.


Q. As more of your competitors take advantage of this opportunity, what’s next for you?

While many brands are slowly waking up to the power and importance of the multicultural consumer, I think the real traction (for everyone) will come from efforts that don’t just talk the talk of diversity and inclusion but also show real connection to these consumer segments and the things that matter to them. As we’ve built our brand efforts, we’ve tried to infuse an action-oriented mindset into our strategy from day one, so it’s never been just a communication strategy, but a way of doing business. As we continue to dive deeper into living out our brand’s purpose of bringing possibilities to life through the power of beauty, I believe the authenticity of that work will continue to differentiate us from the competition.


Q. Without giving away your presentation, is there a key message you would like attendees to takeaway?

What good marketer gives away the punchline to their story before they tell it? But seriously, I think attendees will hopefully takeaway the value of doing the work to resonate with consumers deeply and the power it can have to truly impact not just your brand but the world around us.

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